A full C major chord blast from a cathedral-size pipe organ is an arresting sound. In the right context, my inner, mental dialogue screeches to a halt and a chill races up my spine.
Most music is pleasant ear-candy. Camile Saint-Saëns’ “Symphony No. 3 in C minor (avec orgue), Op. 78” is a narcotic drug for the senses. During its performance, the organ is somewhat sparingly used. However, when it appears in the score, it’s worth the wait. If you ever get the opportunity to listen to the symphony played live in a concert hall, do it.
If I need a jolt of total musical bliss, I put my vinyl LP copy of the piece on the turntable, crank up the volume, settle into the sofa, and close my eyes.
One important thing to remember about such music, is to never play it too frequently. Overexposure leads to over-familiarity. Playing majestic music that contains mind-blowing climactic sections is best done sparingly. Over-playing such music becomes mere thrill-seeking. Saint-Saëns apparently understood this, otherwise he would have simply written the piece as an organ solo. As it is, there is just enough anticipation and just enough pipe organ in the composition.
To be fully present during a musical performance is a form of meditation. There is no struggle to shut down the internal dialogue. Ideally, synergy between the listener and the performers naturally grows. Attempts to analyze this effect greatly diminishes the experience. If one does not over-think the act of listening, a blissful experience will more likely occur. Isn’t this one of the reasons we crave music?
We seek out to satisfy our desires because we want to experience sublime pleasure. Pleasant sensations and states of mind are our refuge from the cruel, harsh world. We do this whether we are listening to music or composing it. A great piece of music comes about due to the composer giving everything there is to give without reservation. This is true regardless if the piece is a simple poetic song or a majestic exposition like a symphony for full orchestra. In such cases, the composer’s bliss is conveyed to the listener.
Strong emotional states like blissfulness can cause us to feel like we’re mentally connected to a force that is greater than ourselves. At its best, bliss feels like complete interconnectedness with the Universe. When the mind is fully withdrawn into blissfulness we might feel deeply soulful or spiritual. It is a sensation that crosses all artificial barriers and belief systems.
Of course, music is not the only way to experience bliss. Often times, letting go of our desires for awhile may lead to it. The silence of being alone with oneself can bring about peak ecstasy. The ebb and flow of observing our thoughts then accepting what is, can enhance the act of living.
Although we can cultivate the mental environment to enable bliss, we cannot force it. There is no faking it to achieve it. Just because I play the Saint-Saëns’ music on the stereo does not guarantee that I will automatically achieve bliss. It is really a matter of mentally letting go and accepting that I may or may not feel ecstasy upon hearing the full C major organ notes. Indeed, bliss doesn’t always happen when I want it to do so. Bliss happens when the Universe is ready to share it.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders words from painter, writer, and Nobel Prize recipient, Hermann Hesse. “If time is not real, then the dividing line between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion.”